Sunday, June 19, 2011

The kids are asleep, why don't we....

...MOW the lawn?!

Yep.  We have ourselves a new grass-clipping machine.  It's a silent, gas-free, reel push lawn mower.  No fumes, no noise, complete manual control.  Luke calls it the ninja mower. 

In deciding on the Fiskars brand, we were lucky to have quite a few trial runs.  Luke's parents graciously, enthusiastically lent us their various gas-free lawn accoutrement.  We began with the Brill reel mower.  This lightweight little bugger was simply too slight for our lush grass.  We found ourselves stuck often and reversing to chop at the grass in an aggressive, not-very-efficient manner.  That made us pause in more ways than one.  Do we really invest in a gas-free grass-clipper if it will take us twice the time?  Oh, and the upkeep demand is much higher since the mower only works if the grass is already short.  Twice the duration, twice the stints?  No thanks.  We're too lazy. 

Then, they lent us the Fiskars.  It's a heavy-duty monster weighing in at 47 pounds, but that is what gives it its power.  Long grass?  No problem. Stuck?  No way.  In fact, Luke cut the grass with the Fiskars faster than he did with our gas-powered machine.  It also shoots the grass out the front of the mower, not at your feet.  I put our baby down for a nap and left his bedroom window open.  Then I went outside in my bare feet and mowed the grass while listening to Lara sing to the trucks in her sand box.  What could be more enjoyable? 

Anyone nearby - I encourage you to come on over to our place and take a few swipes with our reel mower.  Green solutions aside, I purely love this contraption in all it's simplicity, strength and old-school sturdiness. 

And its silence.  Did I mention my baby slept while I mowed? 

Our jovial but somewhat-skeptical neighbor laughingly bellowed at Luke the other night as he quietly clipped the grass:
“What, did you go all environ-MENTAL?”
Yes.  Yes we did. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Human Powered Vehicles

One week without a car. 

Can we do it?

Gaining inspiration from Luke's parents, we've decided to temporarily turn-in our 4 wheeled, gas-powered, carbon-spewing, methods of transport for nothing but (cue radio-announcer's echoing voiceover)
Human Powered Vehicles!

And they're off!  My in-laws flying by so fast that I can't get a good picture. 
September 2009 

Kirk and Katie have been touting the benefits of human-powered vehicles and living virtually car-free for years now.  So, in addition to using those lovely appendages we call feet and the embarrassing amount of baby and child carriers/carriages we already own to get us from point a to point b, we will thankfully borrow a couple of the trikes from the Chaffee fleet. 

Why a week?  Hopefully we learn something.  Hopefully we become less attached to that lovable rustbucket we drive and more enamoured of the idea of a lifestyle geared more toward biped power.  Hopefully our friends and family will cheer us on through this temporary experiment (an experiment we suspect will provide lasting results).  Hopefully we want to do it again.  And again.    

Only frequenting places within biking or walking distance for one week will also hopefully teach us a few skills.  Especially about problem-solving.  If nothing else, watch us flounder for pure entertainment value.  Upon making this declaration, we were filled with delight and some measure of self-satisfaction only to suddenly realize the following:

My sister needs to borrow Lara's full-length mirror. 
My dad wants our four cinder blocks to set-up his new rain barrel. 
We have a wedding to get to on Saturday on a farm outside of town.

Oh dear.

Check back often for updates this week! 

- Luke heads out to Dick's Market on the WindCheetah to purchase a few items for the week ahead
- a short family walk downtown to eat lunch at the Dish and the Spoon with Lara in our Craigslist old-model Burley stroller, Owen in the Ergo carrier and two adults on foot.  We continue on over to the Whole Earth Grocery to stock up on provisions for the week, but not before stopping at our local used clothing store Growing in Style to purchase Owen attire worthy of wearing to the wedding this weekend.  No trip to Woodbury necessary! 

Home from the market with two happy babies and
groceries for the week
in our Burley bike trailer-turned-stroller

- Luke heads off to Hudson on the WindCheetah at 6am to make it to work by 7.  Returns home beaming from ear to ear to say, "Who wants to drive?!"  Watches the sun rise this morning while listening to the birds and feeling the wind blow through his hair.  Stops at Hudson Target for a Father's Day gift and Fresh and Natural for more food stuffs before the return trip.  Worth every minute of the 27 miles he spent on the trike today. 
Luke ready to ride
on the WindCheetah recumbent

- Glorious 9 am morning bike ride to get Lara to her first day of soccer through the Park and Rec department at Glen Park.  My first attempt at pulling the Burley with Lara in it and holding Owen.  Cool breeze, beautiful sun, birds singing.  FYI: Off-roading in a recumbent is not recommended.   Bouncy little buggers and sticks are too close to the chain. 

It's a trike train!
- Headed to the library after soccer for a quick visit.  Can feel my muscles quickly becoming more accustomed to this low-impact pursuit.  Speed demon or snail's pace, these trikes are lovely.  Since there is no need to balance, there is no minimum speed.  Impatience?  Non-existent.  If you know me, you know that is INCREDIBLE.  Every time I get in a car, I feel the need for speed and I just know that everyone else on the road is plotting against me and secretly scheming to slow. me. down.  Where did all that animosity I harbor go

Sure-fire way to put your baby to sleep...
- 11am solo ride to friend Emily's for a massage.  Cross-town trip was magnificent.  First time on a human powered vehicle without a child attached to me.  Couldn't have wiped the grin off my face if you tried. 
- Luke and kids walk on over to Westside playground for some entertainment while I'm off relaxing. 

- First hiccup.  My mom calls to ask if we can pick-up my aunt in Hudson on Wednesday.  Even though I have another excuse beyond this fool week-long experiment (I work when she needs the ride), I am overcome with familial obligation.  Guilt rides through me as I say "I'm sorry" and I imagine the annoyance coursing through my mother who has done so much for me, for my children.  One little trip to and from Hudson in a car?  Will it really make a difference?  A thought bubble appears over my head as I picture my dear family members deep in thought, wondering out loud who can they count on to help them out in a pinch and my brother saying, "Well, don't call Andrea.  She's gone all environ-Mental."  A resentful snicker sounds as my dad slowly shakes his head and the scene fades to black. 
How do we make these changes without pissing off the ones we love?  How do we make these changes without making them feel unconsidered or unimportant? 
I've come to believe love and relationships and family come first.  I strive to accommodate the ones I love, because I am terrible at expressing love in other forms.  When I put aside my needs (or even just my wants), when I put aside my strong convictions, when I put aside my plans, my schedule or my children's schedule, you know that you matter big time in my world. 

Struck with guilt.  How do I let them know they matter

- 9am walk to Dish and the Spoon Cafe for my first day on the job.  Drizzling rain, but no umbrella necessary.  Invigorating crisp air and a refreshing mist.  People pay for this kind of treatment at spas.
- 5:30pm solo 2 mile ride to Zumba class through RF Community Ed at the high school.  Feels amazing.  No children attached to me, just coasting through the University trails.  Thunder rumbles in the distance, the air is crisp with imminent rain. 
- Luke walks to the Dish with both children as the skies open up, pouring buckets on them.  Lara says, "What an adventure!”
- My Zumba class ends along with the rain.  A rainbow forms immediately thereafter - what a beautiful sight. My sister visits via car after class and I beat her to my house (though she does stop to buy a newspaper)

- Busy today.  Morning walk to soccer.  Home again and then off to the library with the kids via bike for Storytime.  Luke drops us off and heads home to make sandwiches for our picnic lunch back at Glen Park. 
Arrive early for the “class of 2029” picnic lunch.  My coworkers and I decided to procreate en masse this year. 5 boys and 2 girls were born in the 2010-2011 school year!  We meet for a lovely afternoon outdoors.

6 of the 7 babes.  Mine's the one who is very unhappy.

- Evening 1.5 mile walk to my parents to set-up for the Girl’s Night fundraiser for Autism Speaks. Luke hauls those cinder blocks for the rain barrel as well as Owen. 

Our All-Terrain Wagon lives up to its name.

- Dark walk home at 10pm.  Both children drop off to sleep and we fall into bed exhausted. 
- 6am jaunt to Dish and the Spoon to work for a few hours.  It's hard not to skip as the sun rises.
- Afternoon family bike ride to Glen Park playgroup.  Owen takes a nap while there, but without a carseat there is no soft spot to lay him down.  On the trike seat he goes, much to the amusement of passersby.
- Pack-up for bike ride to my parent's house again to finish girl’s night set-up.  SO MUCH to bring with that I pack the Burley trailer full, even though Lara stays home and Owen rides on me.  Interesting fact: there is a distinct, delicious cookie aroma wafting from the Best Maid Cookie Factory.  The best part?  It can be enjoyed 2 blocks away!
- In packing up, I forget a few items.  Luke walks the few blocks to where my sister parks while she's at work, deposits the items in her vehicle and returns home on foot, secure in the idea that though we did in fact use a car to haul items, it did not drive one inch further than it already would have.  Did we cheat?  Maybe.
- Luke walks the 1.5 miles with Lara to my mom and dad's in the evening to pick up a crabby Owen and then walks on back.  I ride home well after dark and am surprised to meet many bikers and walking folk on the way.  Nothing but smiles from my fellow bipeds.
- Wedding day!  Pack-up while constantly checking the weather report.  Expect rain, rain, and more rain!  Decide to walk the 2.5 miles rather than bike.  Will take longer, but staying dry while walking is much more likely than staying dry while biking.  The rain cuts the humidity and I begin to cool, which abates my sour mood. 

Lara is overjoyed to ride along with her
cup o' Legos, coloring books,
and bright orange umbrella.

Ominous clouds and thunder roll in 20 minutes before the walk comes to an end, but that only exhilarates us.  Lara exclaims again and again, “We’re having another adventure!”  We arrive and presto, change-o...

We're ready for a wedding!
The Chaffees all dolled-up.
A beautiful bride,
a delectable dinner,
and a memorable evening.  

- The hour walk home beginning at 10:30pm is dark and foreboding, though the fireflies are enchanting.  Cars rush past as we trudge through the rain again.  Lara falls asleep, Owen nurses on the way, and the night air is filled with the sounds of nature.  We lay down on top of the covers, the ceiling fan cooling our damp skin, our muscles twitching, our feet sore, secure with relief that we made it home.  Soothed with the accomplishment that we made it through an entire week without once stepping foot in a car.

- No car means quality family time and a beautiful way of taking in the world around us.  Lara became annoyed by the sound of the cars rushing past (wow - are they LOUD!  never realized it) and so we began to listen to the sounds between or around the cars.  We heard birds and thunder and music and laughter.  We saw rainbows and turtles and ducks and rabbits.  And people smiling EVERYWHERE. 
- The exercise that is inherent in not using a car is one heck of a benefit.  Luke lost weight in just one week.
- My girl is more flexible than I am.  She teaches me beautiful lessons all the time and one that I really need to open my heart to is her sense of adventure.  She doesn’t get scared or stressed or upset when the weather turns wild.  She laughs with glee and finds the joy.  Part of that comes from my abnormally optimistic husband slapping a smile on his face and trumpeting, “Isn’t this FUN?!” in the face of adversity (when in fact it isn’t any fun at all).  You may know well his sarcastic biting wit, but his smushbucket heart is also forever on his sleeve.  Just check out any one of his saccharine facebook status updates.  Between my girl and my husband, my hissy fits don’t stand a chance.  I am so thankful for their rose-colored view of the world around us.  

Owen and Lara weigh A LOT. 
Biking around this town takes hardly more time than driving.  When you factor in the stop signs that you can run and the back-alley paths you can cut through, it’s virtually no different. 
- Walking and biking take purpose and planning.  I’m tired more from forethought than physical exertion.  Ironically, getting stressed only further stresses me out (Thought process:
"Why is something so simple as planning ahead causing me anxiety?  What a bum I am!  I lead a beautiful, easy life.  Get a grip, Self!") 
No matter that the purpose of blogging about this week-without-a-car was to inform friends and family in a non-threatening way and to hold ourselves accountable for a week in spite of every mishap, there are those who will be threatened.  Incensed instead of interested. Scornful instead of supportive.
And there are those who surprise us.  Those who smile as we wheel on by, those who talk about ditching their second car, those who want to take the trike for a spin.  Those who say, “Cool.” And those who say, “Well done.”
  We've learned where to train our focus.
- Ultimately, we learned that this week wasn't too hard.  We did it.  We can do it again.  We will do it again.  Maybe even for an extended spell...

Thank you, friends and family, for your support. 
Thank you, Universe, for the lessons. They were many and they were great.